this is the first sign of allergies or some other problem---and reduce the risk of something minor becoming serious before it is detected and treated.”
A “wet” or “productive” cough expels mucus. “Coughs of this nature usually originate in the trachea and bronchial tree and indicate that these airways are inflamed,” Buechner-Maxwell says. “However, airway inflammation occurs with a number of different conditions, including viral and bacterial infections as well as equine heaves.”
The color and thickness of the mucus produced offers clues to the nature of the problem. A horse with allergies will produce thin, clear or light-colored mucus, whereas a horse with a bacterial infection will produce nasal discharge that is thicker and yellow/white in color. Viral infections and other ailments fall somewhere between those extremes.
One quick way to distinguish an infectious from a noninfectious source of cough is to take the horse’s temperature. “Heaves would typically not cause a fever,” Johnson says. “One hint that it might be a viral infection is the fact that fevers are often initially higher. The discharge when the horse coughs tends to be more watery, compared to thicker discharge from a bacterial infection.”
If you suspect your horse has an infection, you’ll want to call the veterinarian and take action to protect the rest of the herd. “If you have reason to think it might be an infection---even if it’s just one horse in the group coughing ---you should isolate that horse,” says Buechner-Maxwell. “If there’s a nasal discharge, even if it’s clear, or some swollen lymph nodes when you feel around on the neck, or a mild fever, you should move that horse away from the others.” A coughing horse with a respiratory illness can easily spread it to other herdmates. After moving the horse, be sure to wash up and maybe even change your clothes before handling other horses.
A number of illnesses and conditions can cause horses to cough. Here are a few of the more common ones:
• aspiration pneumonia— type of pneumonia that develops when foreign material is drawn into the lungs.
• inflammatory airway disease (IAD)—a little-understood condition commonly found in young racehorses and performance horses who periodically perform poorly, with or without coughing. Excess mucus and inflammatory cells are usually found examinations of su “small airway dise
• influenza— viral infection invo tract. Marked b nasal muc conju s muscle, equine influenza is often associated with high